Adopting a child from a different ethnicity

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Adoption Matters aims to provide children, young people and their families with services that value and celebrate difference, promote equal opportunities and ensure the best outcome for
children who are adopted. We hope this page helps individuals and families who are considering adopting a child of a different ethnicity than their own.

A guide for prospective and approved adopters

In an increasingly diverse society, caring for a child from a different ethnic background can also introduce a more global mindset to family life. A multicultural family is defined as a place, or a situation that consists or relates to many nationalities, cultures, and several races. We want families who are open to diversity.


Multi-cultural families

A multicultural family may have more experience living in different countries and societies and it means that we are offered numerous perspectives to see things and situations in a global context. Being part of a multicultural family will encourage open-mindedness to new cultural experiences and impacts on how we see and perceive the world. Knowledge and preparation are key to successfully caring for a child of a different ethnicity.

This is another building block in developing your knowledge  and understanding of your child, yourselves and the society we live in.

Identity and Attachment

A parent or parents caring for a child of a different culture and ethnicity to themselves have a responsibility to help their  children define themselves as a member of their own culture and ethnicity at the same time as bringing them into the new culture that is already present in the family. Without connection, the child can feel ‘lost’.

This means preparing your child and your family for the challenges of racism and prejudice. 

It is important to recognise that children who have come into the care system are likely to have attachment issues due to traumatic beginnings in their lives.


Meeting ethnicity and identity needs

In addition to the issues of attachment, trauma, grief and loss of foster carers and birth family, children being adopted into a family of a different background may experience an extra challenge in finding their identity in a family that doesn’t represent their own ethnicity.

Meeting ethnicity and identity needs is an essential part in your child’s development and will actively promote their ability to develop secure and healthy relationships within their new  adoptive family network. Once a child is valued for who they are it paves the way for them to attach to their new family.

Children placed in a family of a different ethnicity and culture do not have the advantage of learning
about their birth cultures through everyday cues and bits of knowledge, unconsciously processed and passed down through the years and generations, in the same way that families of the same backgrounds do.

Therefore, deliberate thought must be given to addressing the cultural and identity needs of a child.

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Black, Asian and children from other ethnic groups need to be protected from, as well as prepared for, the various forms of racism and discrimination they may encounter in their lives. Any racism must be seen by your children to be dealt with, openly acknowledged and not tolerated. This increases a child’s security and value within the family and helps them  feel listened to. The first step to helping a child deal with any prejudice and racism is to instil strong self-esteem. With a positive view they will be more able to move forwards from any hurtful comments. If they do experience a racist comment in school or the community, acknowledge that you understand how hurt they are and that what happened to them was unfair. Let them know that the remarks are untrue and wrong.

Children need help to recognise that they are not alone in experiencing or challenging racism.

Let them know you will go into battle for them!

Ed & Di talk adoption


Children waiting

There are approximately 78,000 looked after children in England. Within this, Black children are disproportionately over-represented in our care system; while Black ethnic groups make up 3% of the general population, 8% of the looked after children population is Black. Black children are also less likely to go on to be adopted and wait longer to find their adoptive families.  The data reveals that whilst the average White child waits 919 days for adoption, boys of Black African descent wait the longest – 1,302 days.

We know that when it comes to people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, there are a number of specific barriers which can stop people from considering adoption, whether that is a misconception about the type of person that can adopt, fear of the process being overly intrusive or a mistrust of authority.
It is important that children who are Black Caribbean or Black African, Asian and of mixed Black ethnicity are placed with families who can support their identity and their understanding of their culture and heritage.

Only 2.7% of the people approved to be adopters in 2018/19 were Black. Adoption guidance states that adoption agencies/professionals should not seek to match all aspects of ethnicity and cultural background where this will cause delay to a child achieving a permanent family but should look at what is needed to support the child and family.

Data sources:

It is recognised that as with any adoption, transracial adoptions are both challenging and rewarding and that aspects such as attachment, self-esteem around identity and racial identity are just some of the support needs that adoptive parents entering a transracial placement should consider; importantly, a multitude of support is available to enable prospective adopters to provide a home and family in which a child’s ethnicity is celebrated by the whole family.

There is no single definition now for what constitutes a family – ideas are challenged and constantly evolve to align with modern life and societal change.

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